Between a Rock and New Tech
In October Apple released the new MacBook Pro with TouchBar and received a mixed reaction. Some complaints cited the configuration limit of 16GB of memory, decreased battery size due to increased thinness and the use of only Thunderbolt 3 ports. All of these complaints are valid for some users and I think Apple is acknowledging it by still selling the Mid–2015 MacBook Pro alongside the new Late–2016 models. They would certainly rather have a simple product matrix that didn’t include old models of the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air too, but they still need to hit all the price points to accommodate all different types of consumers. The good news is if you want all the ports and you want a bigger battery then go purchase the old device, with its Intel Haswell processor and slower SSD.
People had the same concerns about the MacBook Air when it was first introduced with its lack of ports and very high price, but now people love that computer. I think we are seeing a similar situation with the MacBook Pro they are creating a form factor they will be using for the next five years and initially the hardware that will fit into it is going to be constrained, but as time goes by the internals will get faster, cheaper and smaller all while the case is tweaked and refined to perfection. I would expect the next generation to include support for more memory and improved battery life because of the improvements of internals.
The new Thunderbolt 3 port situation is also a byproduct of this forward looking view from Apple. The new case might not fit a USB-A port without requiring an increase in the thickness of the case, all for a port that may be completely irrelevant in 3–4 years. It may seem backwards to design a case first and then figure out what can go inside it, but it makes more sense if you think about the case you want in five years. How small can we make the case given our predictions on how people will use computers in five years? Using this logic also may explain why the SD card slot was not included in the new MacBook Pro. A majority of the cameras I use take the Micro SD cards and I am always forced to use an adapter/dongle in order to get them on my computer. In 3–4 years will SD cards still be the standard or will more cameras switch over to Micro SD or some other standard.
Other complaints recently have been around the absence of any new desktop Macs in 2016. I think the MacBook Pro is the flagship Mac and not only got more attention, but also needs to introduce new features before they appear on the desktops. If we look back just a few years we saw the MacBook first get Retina displays and Force Touch trackpads. Similarly I think we will see new desktop Macs in 2017 that include Thunderbolt 3 ports, new SSD’s and some variation of the Touch Bar. I think from a development perspective it is probably much easier to build it for the MacBook Pro and then retrofit that to a desktop machine than it is build something for the desktop and try to squeeze it into the MacBook Pro.
2016 was not a fantastic year for the desktop Mac, but it saw some amazing new technologies come to the MacBook Pro. The features on the MacBook Pro might not satisfy people in 2016, but over the next couple of years as more and more electronics convert to using USB-C style connectors we will be glad that our MacBooks Pro have plenty of Thunderbolt 3 ports to go around. Now we just need the MacBook to get an upgrade to not one, but two Thunderbolt 3 ports. Transitioning to the future is hard, but no matter what we are all going to be there.